The Rhythm of Masculinity, What Does It Mean For Men?

There seems to be no discernible cycle in a man’s life. Are there any rhythms that are peculiar to men, that separate men from women? What is different about men? What is the rhythm of masculinity?

All life has rhythm, from the cycle of days, created by the sun, to the cycle of months, created by the moon. The seasons roll around from year to year, birds fly south, and back again, and the snows come and go. Humans we have a cycle of life and death roughly around the ‘four score years and ten’ of the bible. Even civilisations have their growth and their decline.

This is a unique and powerful book. It is a record of a series of conversations with Christopher Howard on masculinity, sex, addiction and relationships. In them both Chris and myself opened ourselves up in a very personal and revealing way. We held nothing back and explored what it is to be men.

Women are well known for their menstrual cycle, men live with it and still do not understand it. The moon and proximity to other women govern the cycle. It creates an ebb and flow to female life, a way of measuring time going by. Men interrupt this by impregnating women but only during the cycle of child-bearing. After ‘the change’ that is all gone.

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But what about men? Through all this there seems to be no discernible cycle in a man’s life. Are there any rhythms that are peculiar to men, that separate men from women? Are there male periods? What is different about men?

There are discernible differences. By coming to understand these differences you can grow and come to better understand yourself. Once you have a better understanding you can develop your strength and change how the world sees you.

The Flow of In and Out

This is the most basic rhythm of all. Although there are clear connections with the sexual act of in and out, that is not it. It represents the male characteristic of involvement and non-involvement. Men are ether in or out. They are either focused or in their ‘nothing box’, either attached or detached.

This is one of the great indicators of masculine strength, the ability to be ‘there’, completely present. Women know exactly when a man is in this state and they get excited by it. They also know when men detach themselves and they get frustrated by it. They often cannot understand how a man can be so detached, so devoid of thought or interest. They cannot see how a man can be so empty, so uninterested.

One of the distinctions between men and women is that women are all about filling up and men are all about emptying out. Women involve themselves, think and care and men just cannot deal with it. They cannot see why a woman just does not empty out and watch TV, or fish or …

This is one of my favourite qualities in men, the ability to focus and achieve. the ability to completely empty themselves and let it all go.

The Sexual Rhythm

There is a sexual rhythm of in and out, but that is a simplistic view. The sexual rhythm follows the pattern; Interest, Arousal, Orgasm, Sleep. It’s a basic build up, empty out rhythm. The flow of in and out connects to this but it gets a little more complicated. I know men have a reputation for being simple, but sometimes there can be some complication.

This rhythm is definitely different from the female sexual rhythm which grows and builds and just keeps going. It causes no end of aggravation for many men who cannot cope with the continuation of the intensity. For men there is a finish and to go beyond that requires a lot of effort and strength.

A women creates an interest in a man and the play begins. At this stage all options are open and the woman still has choices open to her. If she returns the interest a man can move on to the next stage, arousal. Now the woman’s choices are closing off. Many women miss this and still think a man is playing. By now he isn’t, he is on track. Arousal is the start of sex and often the start of a process that men find difficult to stop.

Depending on the maturity and experience of the man it can lead to climax in a few minutes, the ultimate end of sex. This is the emptying out that all men strive for, ‘la petite mort’, the near death experience. This triggers a hormone shift that moves the man to sleep. He has finished, spent himself, there is nothing left. Sometimes the shift brings on a big yawn in me, then my partner knows it has been good.

This basic rhythm also appears in relationships and marriages. There is interest that grows and peaks followed by … nothing. Women find it hard to understand, but it’s just a natural process and has nothing to do with them.

The Archetypal Male Life

This looks at the flow of a man’s life and has extraordinary applicability across cultures. It has the following flow of archetypes:

Birth > Child > Predator > Warrior > Father > Saboteur > Elder > Child > Death

After Birth the Child is weak and defenceless. he is dependent on his mother and is building his reactions to men and women, more on this in the next section. He then reaches puberty and dramatic changes happen in his body, changes that he is rarely equipped to deal with. These can turn him into a Predator as he tries to understand the strong sexual desires he now has. He hasn’t the strength or compassion to deal with them. Lust and dominance characterise this stage. He then moves in his Warrior. In some societies there is a formal move into this stage, a move that can help him deal with what is happening inside him. In western society this shift can be far more problematic.

The Warrior is able to show his strength and form relationships which enable his move into the Father. Here responsibility takes over. Other people crowd into his life in a way the Warrior wouldn’t have accepted. His partner and children depend on him. He needs to keep working and earning money. The responsibilities crowd out his passions and desires. This shifts him into the Saboteur, known as the mid-life crisis. He is getting older and wants to return to the passion of his youth, either with a younger woman or a more exciting job.

This is, of course, just illusion and make believe. He is growing through this stage. His children get older and leave home. His wife’s focus comes back to him. His job gets more important. He is the Elder, the Sage, the Wizard. His strength returns in a more mature way and he realises the responsibility was an important part of leading to this stage. Old age then beckons with the prospect of returning to the Child and Death.

The Myth of Oedipus

This flow can is a constant struggle to acknowledge separateness and to bring opposites together. It is about the opposites of masculine and feminine and a boy’s struggle to deal with them. I am indebted to Peter O’Connor for his analysis of this in his book The Inner Man. He points out that there are three clear stages of struggle in a man’s life. They are the Oedipal stage (5-6), adolescence (13-19) and mid-life (35-45). These stages are cumulative and each incorporates the former.

In the Oedipal stage the young boy becomes the father’s rival for the mother. He experiences the threat of castration from the father as a punishment for his sexual longings. He represses his yearnings for his mother and lines his psyche up with the father. Thus he begins the process of separation from the mother, or feminine.

In adolescence the boy is in a rage through estrangement and separation. He feels abandoned, with an unavailable father or, at least, the absence of an enabling one. The ego-inflated young man is pre-occupied with triumphing over the Great Mother, or inner world.

In mid-life he has a psychological return to adolescence. He re-works of this earlier stage of psychological development. It is an opportunity to deal with incomplete business. He can face his unknown feelings that he sacrificed on the altar of power, success and ambition.

There are greater depths to this Oedipal Myth and its applicability to the flow of a man’s life. It can illuminate a man’s struggle with his masculine and feminine feelings. It can illuminate his feelings about his mother and father and his struggle with sexuality.

  • Are you aware of your emotional flow and how it affects you?
  • How does your sexual rhythm mesh with your partner’s?
  • What effect did your parents have on you?

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